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News Story

May 31, 2018 — The Jesuits
of Canada and the United States join our brother Jesuits and the Nicaraguan
bishops in denouncing recent violence in Nicaragua and calling for justice.

On May 27, Fr. José Alberto Idiáquez, SJ, president of the
Central American University (UCA), the Jesuit university in Managua, Nicaragua, denounced a violent attack in which guards at the university’s front gates were targeted
by para-police forces. On May 30, the UCA again denounced violence that erupted
during a march as it neared its conclusion at the gates of the UCA. There, shots
broke out and many were wounded. More than 5,000 individuals took refuge on the
university campus, where they received medical attention from volunteers and
were gradually transferred for medical care. Despite continuing unrest, many
chose to leave the university campus because of recent attacks and threats
directed at the university. 

The attacks come in a broader context of civil and political
unrest. Last month, widespread protests, led in large part by Nicaraguan youth
and university students, broke out in objection to proposed changes to the
social security system. Police and para-military forces responded with violent
repression. More
than 75 individuals have reportedly been killed since that time, including a student from the
Jesuit high school in Managua
and the
parent of a student from a Jesuit-affiliated school. A significant portion
of those killed, wounded and disappeared are young people.

In its preliminary
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported over
850 individuals wounded, in addition to illegal and arbitrary detentions,
torture, attacks against the press and other forms of intimidation. On May 22,
the Chair of the Bishops’ Conference of Nicaragua issued a statement informing
that bishops and priests have been receiving death threats and other forms of
intimidation connected to the “exercise of prophetic ministry,” including its
denunciation of repression by the Nicaraguan government and calls for dialogue
and democracy.

While the recent levels of protests and violence seem sudden
to many, they arise in a broader context in which the current government has
been consolidating power over several years. In 2011, the Supreme Court
controversially ruled that President Ortega could run for reelection, and in
2014, a constitutional amendment eliminated limits to the number of terms a president
could serve, as well as minimum vote requirements.

The UCA denounced the recent acts of violence and repression,
as well as the irresponsibility of the current government that has allowed
these groups to “intimidate and kill innocent citizens.” Similarly, the Nicaraguan
bishops denounced threats against bishops and priests in the broader context of
“one of the worst crises in (Nicaraguan) history with the brutal repression of
the Nicaraguan government, which has tried to evade its responsibility as the
principal actor in the many aggressions.”

Both the university and the Bishops’ Conference reiterate
their commitment to standing with the Nicaraguan people in their demands for
justice and democracy. Following yesterday’s escalation of violence at its
gates, the UCA calls upon human rights organizations, and the international
community more broadly, to intervene.

On April 22, as protests erupted throughout Nicaragua, Pope
voiced his concern for the country, saying, "I am united with
the bishops in asking that every form of violence end, that a pointless
shedding of blood be avoided and that open issues be resolved peacefully and
with a sense of responsibility."

The Jesuits of Canada and the United States join our brother
Jesuits and the Nicaraguan bishops in denouncing this recent violence and calling
for justice. We are deeply pained to witness these acts of repression and
intimidation against the UCA, the Catholic Church and those they accompany. In the midst
of this crisis, we are heartened by their firm commitment to stand with the
Nicaraguan people who have experienced oppression and demand justice and to
call for the building of peace through dialogue and democracy.  

Today we reaffirm our solidarity with them and join in
calling for an end to violence and intimidation and for the respect for human
rights. Specifically, we call for an end to repression by state and
para-military forces; for the protection of universities and other spaces
essential for freedom of thought and expression, as well as of those gathered
in them; the investigation of violations of human rights in the recent crisis
and prosecution of those responsible; and for a true dialogue in which the
voices of the oppressed are represented and can contribute to the building of
just systems that are foundational for lasting peace.

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